Do you want to learn more about practicing the Schumann Symphony No. 2 violin excerpt? In this blog post, we’ll share more about specific ways for you to approach the piece and nail your violin auditions.
If you’d like to see the lesson this blog post is based on, click here to watch it for free — otherwise, read on!
This excerpt from Schumann’s Scherzo is one of the most frequently requested items in orchestral auditions.
Schumann's writing in this Scherzo showcases a strange character, with lots of diminished harmonies. The writing is quite awkward for the violin too, and David Kim, who teaches the associated free lesson, points out that when dealing with technically tricky pieces, music always comes first.
This excerpt should have a symphonic character, and the player should showcase in the sound an imagination of playing along with many violinists and with the whole orchestra.
Avoid making it sound like an excerpt. Like all other excerpts that showcase lots of off-the-string bow stroke, this is also an opportunity to use different combinations of strokes (sautillé, detaché, and spiccato).
Begin with the bow from the string and follow Kim’s annotations for strokes to use:
In general, anything in the softer dynamic should be played more off the string and more toward the sautillé stroke. As we get louder, the bow should get more and more on the string.
Take care not to create a run-on sentence! Identify the phrases, giving microvibrato and clear definition to the last note of each phrase. Don’t take the repeat in an audition.
Don't forget to acknowledge the poco rit. in m. 20. The accents in m. 21 should sound slightly pointy and jagged, given their awkward metric placement.
Going into the sudden piano at measure 29, picture that you’re letting off the gas pedal of a car. Pull back the intensity and allow gravity and momentum to take charge.
At letter K, despite the large interval leap, don't lunge forward to the next phrase. Slightly elongate and beautify the last notes with a touch of vibrato at the end of each phrase.
Coordinating the hands can be problematic in this excerpt. Kim plays the Scherzo at a tempo of about quarter note = 138, not quite as fast as Schumann’s marking (quarter note = 144), but it should still feel like Allegro Vivace.
How do we practice this? Kim believes in practicing in a variety of ways, and one of them is extremely slow practice – 2 notes per second or even slower!
Extract a difficult four-note section and loop it at various tempi. Try to incorporate a performative element, even in a passage as brief as this.
Do this with as many segments as possible so that when you return to them at a fast tempo, you have concrete familiarity with how to bow them, what expression to use, and they’re technically comfortable.
For the section after the second ending, Kim recommends holding off on deciding which bow stroke to use until the audition itself, based on what feels good at the moment. Trust your technical training to form a good interpretation, ultimately using a combination of each stroke type.
Now that we’ve gone over these tips, you should be ready to handle your audition with the Schumann Symphony No. 2 violin excerpt with ease.
If you’d like to watch the lesson on this topic for free, just click here.
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